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Pitchers providing offensive spark for Cardinals

Garcia, Martinez come through with clutch hits in wins this week

ST. LOUIS -- As would be assumed, the bulk of the Cardinals' rotation contributions have come from the mound, where the group has combined to post the Majors' lowest ERA (2.99) heading into the weekend. Lately, however, the starters have also found a way to help their cause with the bat.

Carlos Martinez on Wednesday sparked the Cardinals' first offensive rally with a two-out single in his third-inning at-bat against the Rockies. He scored in that inning and added another single later in the game. On Friday, Jaime Garcia, who received no offensive support in three of his first four starts, drove in a run with a two-out single.

"I thought we had better athletes than what our at-bats were showing [previously], so it's nice to see all of them taking better swings," manager Mike Matheny said. "Lance Lynn is our most improved hitter, by far, mostly because you couldn't have gotten much worse. … But it is fun to watch these guys go up, and when they do contribute, it's amazing what that does to the game, rolling the lineup over with some damage up there. It's very important that they grind through those at-bats."

Collectively, the pitchers' offensive numbers have actually dipped since last season, when the group ranked third in the league in batting average (.149), third in on-base percentage (.188), fourth in sacrifice bunts (40) and fourth in RBIs (16). They also compiled those numbers with a lot of help from Adam Wainwright, who hit .181/.213/.222 with six RBIs in 2014.

There has been notable individual improvement this year, however. Lynn, who went 4-for-60 a year ago, has already matched that hit total. He's striking out far less often, too. Sixty-one percent of his at-bats from 2012-14 ended in a strikeout. That percentage has dropped to 45 in 2015.

Martinez, now a permanent member of the rotation, has four hits in 39 at-bats to go along with three successful sacrifices. And while Garcia's hit on Friday was his first of the season, he's shown an ability to handle the bat well over his career.

Michael Wacha, 1-for-29 with 18 strikeouts last season, has three hits and only five strikeouts in 21 at-bats. John Lackey, a lifetime American League pitcher until a year ago, is 1-for-18.

"Every day we're either inside in the cage with the [pitching] machines or the coaches are coming out early and [the pitchers] are hitting," Matheny said. "They're working on things -- working on getting runners over, working on the two-strike approach, putting the ball in play, fouling off pitches. … We just want them to put together a tough at-bat."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast.
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